The 2018 NFL Season is a quarter of the way over thus far for the New Orleans Saints, and although it’s still too early to predict who will make the Playoffs at the moment; it appears that the Black and Gold might end up facing some different teams this year than they did last year, if they make it to the post-season.
As of right this very minute, while you drink your morning coffee, the (3-1) Saints are currently the #3 seeded team as the division leaders of the NFC South.
That ranks them behind the conference’s only undefeated team, the (4-0) and #1 seed Los Angeles Rams, division leaders of the NFC West; and the (3-1) and #2 seeded Chicago Bears, division leaders of the NFC North.
We all know that the Rams are the only undefeated team left in the NFC, but did you know that they are also the only NFC team without a conference loss? (Conference records come into play to during playoff seeding) pic.twitter.com/kkZsyugqCu
— SeattleRams (@seattlerams_nfl) October 1, 2018
Rounding out the other NFC Playoff spots if the season were to end today:
The NFC East leader and #4 seed Washington Redskins, and the two Wild Card teams: the #5 seed Carolina Panthers and the team that the Saints would be playing at the Superdome on the first weekend of the Playoffs: the #6 seed Green Bay Packers.
Of the current Top 6 NFC Playoff seeds, the Rams, Saints, and Carolina Panthers were the only ones that also made it to the Playoffs last year as well.
Ironically for New Orleans: the Black and Gold will actually be facing 3 out of those 6 other possible NFC Playoff teams (not counting themselves) in the upcoming weeks ahead.
The Saints will host the Redskins on Monday Night Football next week; and then will face the Rams a few weeks later at home inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, November 4th.
A few weeks later, they’ll play fellow NFC South division leader Carolina twice in the final 3 weeks of the regular season: December 17th at Charlotte, North Carolina on Monday Night Football, and Sunday, December 30th in the 2018 Regular Season finale at the Superdome.
Last season, as some Saints fans will recall, the Saints were the #4 seed and ended up facing the Panthers in the Wild Card round. They then lost to the Vikings in the final seconds at Minnesota the following week.
If this current projection were to remain in order as it currently stands, the Saints’ possible path during the Playoffs would seem to be slightly different this year, with them playing the Packers in the Wild Card game before facing either the Bears or the Rams.
One notable change that’s already taken place so far after the first 4 games of this new season is the “pecking order” atop the NFC. Last year, it was the Eagles and the Vikings who were the #1 and #2 teams in the conference for a majority of the season.
This year, the two teams to watch out for besides the Saints in the NFC are the undefeated Rams and those surprising Chicago Bears, who are easily the League’s most improved team overall.
The Saints’ 33-18 win on Sunday against the Giants in New York allowed the Saints to “keep pace” with the Rams, who they will face in a little over a month from now, in a Week #9 contest at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 4th.
The Rams (4-0) are off to their best start since 2001, back when NFL Hall of Famers QB Kurt Warner, RB Marshall Faulk and their fleet-footed receivers known as “The Greatest Show on Turf”, made their franchise’s last appearance in the Super Bowl.
They’re currently the League’s top story right now, and with good reason. They have an explosive offense, a perfect record and a red-hot quarterback (3rd year star Jared Goff).
And not to forget: one of the brightest offensive minds in the NFL (32-year old head coach Sean McVay) along with one of the best defensive coordinators in the League’s entire history (71-year old and 42nd year NFL coaching veteran Wade Phillips).
The Bears have turned their fortunes around quickly thanks to their trade at the start of the season for Raiders All-Pro defensive end and the League’s undisputed #1 top defensive star at the moment, Khalil Mack.
Don’t forget about Khalil Mack, who also recorded a sack and forced fumble for the fourth straight game 🐻 pic.twitter.com/WJhSXiPdUA
— Bleacher Report NFL (@BR_NFL) September 30, 2018
Khalil Mack is an absolute game-wrecker. Pass or run, from the left or right, doesn’t matter. All-around elite player: pic.twitter.com/ZwzrN78apU
— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) October 2, 2018
The Bears were only a few plays away in Week 1 from beating the Packers, or else they’d be undefeated at (4-0) also. Still, (3-1) is pretty good for a Bears team that looked like it was still rebuilding, and might be a better team down the line.
But thanks to adding Mack and rookie top-10 pick linebacker Roquan Smith to an already very good defensive unit, the Bears have been much better than expected.
The Bears now have a Top-5 defense but what’s scarier is that new head coach Matt Nagy and talented 2nd year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky have quickly formed a strong bond with one another and have become one of the hottest new “coach-QB” duos in the NFL, as evidenced by Trubisky’s 6 TD passes in the 1st half alone the other day in their 48-10 destruction of Tampa Bay.
📺: FOX pic.twitter.com/OJFOWiBo3M
— NFL (@NFL) September 30, 2018
Again, it is pretty early in the season, and clearly a lot of things could potentially happen or take place that would completely change the outlook for most if not all of those teams.
But it definitely appears that if things remain as they are now, the Saints just might end up facing some different teams this year than they did last year, if they make it to the Playoffs….
Editor’s Note: If you enjoy Barry’s writing, be sure to check out his detailed story on the how the Saints and their fans are tackling the controversial NFL-National Anthem issue, featuring his interview with Saints linebacker Demario Davis. Don’t forget to also check out our series on things to do in New Orleans as well as a piece we released recently on a controversial movie filmed in New Orleans.